How to Operate a Microwave Oven

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A microwave oven is a safe, effective and fast way to cook many foods as long as you follow a few basic microwave rules.
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A microwave oven is a safe, effective and fast way to cook many foods as long as you follow a few basic microwave rules. Like any cooking device, it can be dangerous or ruin your food if you don't use it properly. Consult the instructions that come with your microwave oven along with the directions on any packaged food you cook to make sure you're using it correctly.


Microwave Oven Uses and Functions

A microwave oven sends radiation similar to light or the sun's rays into the food you put inside the oven to heat it. This method is usually faster than using a traditional oven or other cooking devices such as an electric toaster oven. Microwave ovens can be used to cook food from scratch, heat frozen foods quickly, or reheat refrigerated leftovers. They're also often used for preparing snacks such as popcorn.


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Microwave ovens are usually more compact than traditional ovens and can be plugged into ordinary electrical outlets, making them a countertop staple in many homes and offices. Some are also built into kitchens along with traditional ovens. They can usually be used without any special electrical wiring, making them a versatile appliance, and they're often considered safer than electric hotplates, which have exposed hot cooking surfaces.


Remember to clean anything that spills inside your microwave so that it does not cook onto the oven's inner surface, rot inside the microwave, attract vermin, or contaminate other food with its odor.

Microwave Cook Times and Tips

Some microwaves come with buttons corresponding to particular foods, such as potatoes, pasta or popcorn, to automatically set the cooking time and intensity best for cooking these foods. Otherwise, you can consult your microwave's manual or look online for microwave oven cooking tips for your favorite foods. Some foods may also require or benefit from special preparation before being cooked in a microwave oven. For example, poke holes in a potato before microwaving it so that steam has room to escape without bursting the potato.


If you're cooking prepared food such as frozen dinner or packaged popcorn, check the food's packaging for microwave directions. You may need to adjust them slightly, depending on your microwave's idiosyncrasies.

It is a good idea to let food sit a bit after you microwave it because microwaves cook food unevenly, leaving hot and cold spots. When the food sits, the heat naturally travels through it, finishing the cooking and leaving the food more evenly heated.


Microwave Safety Tips and Hazards

One of the most common microwave safety tips is never put metal in a microwave oven. This can lead to electrical sparks and fires in a microwave. If you accidentally put aluminum foil or metal utensils in a microwave oven, turn off the microwave as soon as you notice the problem.


As with other cooking appliances, using a microwave oven unattended is a bad idea. Keep an eye on it in case it malfunctions or food overheats and begins to smoke. If you smell smoke or see signs that food is overheating, turn off the microwave and wait for the food to cool down.

Microwave ovens usually don't, as is sometimes believed, interfere with pacemakers and other medical devices, but if you're not sure whether this is an issue, talk to your doctor or the company that made your device. Microwaves can interfere with other radio-based systems in your home, such as Wi-Fi. If you're doing something critical with your Wi-Fi that you don't want to be interrupted or are playing an online game, wait until that task is done to use the microwave oven.